Esophageal cancer is the 6th leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country. One reason the prognosis is often so bleak is because diagnosis is usually very late into the progression of the disease. Knowing the causes, warning signs and symptoms is very important to beating this kind of cancer.
Esophageal Cancer Causes
There is no single cause of esophageal cancer, but there are things that can greatly increase the risk. Some of those factors include drinking alcohol and/or smoking or chewing tobacco. All of these actions can be stopped, and that would decrease the chances of developing this form of cancer.
Some risk factors are not voluntary, and may actually stem from other diseases. These include achalasia (trouble swallowing because the esophagus can’t relax), GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease), or Barrett’s esophagus. Tumors may also form along the esophagus after radiation treatment in surrounding areas in the body.
Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer
The early signs of this form of cancer can be subtle, so any sudden changes should be checked by your doctor. The most common symptoms include having trouble swallowing, unplanned or unexplained weight loss, pressure or pain in the chest, increased frequency of heartburn and acid reflux, and coughing with a sore throat.
Unfortunately, esophageal cancer doesn’t necessarily carry any symptoms at all. So if you are diagnosed with any corresponding conditions, regular cancer screenings are vital. These conditions include Barrett’s esophagus and GERD.
Diagnosing Esophageal Cancer
Endoscopy is a test that uses a small camera that is fed into the esophagus to inspect suspected cancers or irritated tissues. After a growth has been found, a biopsy will be ordered. This outpatient procedure involves removing a small sample of the suspected area. Tests are performed on the sample and a diagnosis is made. Once cancer has been found, the doctor may order a variety of other tests including endoscopic ultrasonic exam (EUS), or a PET/CT exam. This can give the doctor an idea of the extent of the disease so he can plan the proper course of action.
Contact a Thoracic Surgeon Today
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or would just like to learn more about esophageal cancer surgery in Los Angeles contact Dr. Mahtabifard and Dr. Fuller at the West Coast Associates for Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery to schedule an appointment. Call us at 310-776-6905 or connect with us online.